International Minerals Innovation Institute

Transforming Innovative Ideas into Practice

Innovation holds a special place in the minerals industry, which is the backbone of modern life. Minerals are used in various critical applications, from building infrastructure to powering homes and vehicles. While this key industry supports our daily lives, it also benefits from constant change, development, and innovation. Modern life is made possible by the minerals industry and requires a consistent influx of great new ideas, technologies, and processes. 

Innovation here isn’t only about novelty; it’s about bringing significant value and benefits to this indispensable sector.

What is innovation?

The Conference Board of Canada shares that “Innovation is a process by which economic and social value is extracted from knowledge by generating, developing, and implementing ideas to produce new or improve strategies, capabilities, products, services, or processes.” Innovation is important, but it has to also add deep value to our minerals industry.

Saskatchewan’s mining sector has been at the forefront of change and development in recent years. Notably, automation has revolutionized processes, enhancing both safety and efficiency. The industry has embraced sustainability, taking concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this, the integration of autonomous and semi-autonomous equipment and machine learning has streamlined operations, making them safer and more effective and responsive to evolving challenges. 

In fact, in 2022, Statistics Canada found that 30.9% of mining businesses across the country have adopted some form of advanced technology, with 30.5% using artificial intelligence (AI) and 39.5% using robotics! When asked, these businesses cited the need to develop new or improved processes, increase flexibility, and reduce costs as reasons for the adoption of emerging technologies. 

These innovations underscore the commitment to modernize and meet the evolving needs of society while minimizing environmental impact. From identifying needs to implementing new processes to utilizing emerging technologies, innovation is alive and well in the minerals industry. 

Fostering Innovation to Meet Industry Needs

Innovation often begins with industry partners willing to embrace and test new technologies or concepts. The minerals industry is multifaceted, with various stakeholders, including those engaged in on-site operations, education, and supply chain management. Each of these stakeholders offers a unique perspective on the industry’s needs and how they can be met. This is where the IMII plays a pivotal role. IMII acts as a bridge, connecting the diverse elements of this complex industry, enabling ideas to evolve into tangible solutions.

Innovation in the Saskatchewan Minerals Industry

As the availability of emerging technologies and innovative practices grows, we’re seeing many Saskatchewan-based minerals companies trialling, developing, and adopting these innovations. 

  • Cameco is utilizing digitization for improved efficiency and safety in its operations. This includes AI, robotics, predictive maintenance, machine learning, automation and data analytics. For example, their Key Lake site is testing a robotic arm for packaging and sealing uranium.

  • Thanks to tele-remote technology, Nutrien just opened their first production wing with no workers present at the Lanigan mine! Making use of AI, radar, and LIDAR advanced sensing systems, the Nutrien team can now operate the wing fully remotely.

  • BHP is taking another approach to innovation, focusing on diversity and sustainability in their Jansen Potash project. Their goal is to implement a gender-balanced team to head up their world-leading low-emissions mine.

  • Mosaic’s Esterhazy mine is a beacon of innovation with its focus on digitization. This mine is now the world’s largest Potash operation, as well as one of the most technologically advanced.

We invite you to read more about each of these exciting projects and more in the Fall/Winter 2023 issue of ORE Magazine, courtesy of the SMA. And, if you find yourself reading about these incredible ideas and thinking to yourself ‘I have an idea like that,’ the next section is for you! 


The IMII team is passionate about opening up opportunities for innovators in the minerals industry by creating a space for them to showcase their ideas, and even implement them in real-world scenarios. That’s why we created DEMOday.

DEMOday invites inventors, start-ups and supply chain companies to apply to pitch their innovative solutions—equipment, technologies, products or processes that solve an industry problem for one or more of IMII’s minerals company members. Here, innovators have the opportunity to connect with customers, supply chain, and partners to pilot their technologies. 

DEMOday is about:
  • Looking for new insights and inspiration from suppliers in addressing their toughest technology challenges
  • Building connections with the industry’s supply chain in specific areas of interest
  • Advancing a technology development, demonstration, or deployment
  • Meeting new innovative talent to explore solutions
    Inviting collaboration between innovators and industry

We have hosted five successful DEMOdays since 2018, bringing forth some of the brightest minds in the industry and connecting them with prolific minerals companies.

Here are just a few of the past winners and their innovative solutions:

DEMOday 2023’s Innovation Award winner, as selected by our minerals company members, was Extract Energy’s heat engine. This technology has the potential to capture waste heat from dryers and other sources in minerals operations and reuse it to improve energy efficiencies and lower GHG emissions. 

“For us, participating in the DEMOdays opened up a lot of collaborative opportunities so we have the opportunity to connect with customers for customer development and potential pilot site opportunities, to plug into the supply chain, to look for opportunities to help us with our scale and production problems, and to move our potential manufacturing and development process out to Saskatchewan.”

— Michael Kuntz, Extract Energy 

DEMOday 2020’s Innovation Award winner was the EECOL Electric, Ionic Mechatronics and SafeBox System. SafeBox offers a distributed energy isolation and single-point lock-and-tag system, allowing operators to execute complex, system-wide lockouts in just seconds. Following their win, we have been working with SafeBox to implement their innovation.

“We got our first installation right here in Saskatchewan as a result of that competition [DEMOdays]”

— Michael Dolinair, Ionic Mechatronics

DEMOday 2019’s Innovation Award winner was Continental Mine & Industrial Supply Ltd.’s DC-54-UG Underground Dust Collection System. Like SafeBox, we are pleased to be working with CMI on the implementation of their winning innovation.

“The benefit for us was that we need industry partners to help take our ideas through to fruition.”

— Dwayne Howatt, Continental Mine & Industrial Supply

Pitching in DEMOday makes a difference for all innovators, not just those who win. The competition allows you to fine-tune how you communicate your idea, create a presentation, and get eyes on your innovation. 

DEMOday brings in experts, professionals, and leaders from the minerals industry, and all of them get to hear about your solution. It’s a great opportunity to make some connections, earn some solid feedback, and even make meaningful steps toward the growth and implementation of your innovation. 

Stay tuned for the upcoming DEMOday 2024 industry needs announcement and bring your best pitch! We look forward to meeting our next group of big thinkers.